(This blog contains spoilers on the secrets of Abba Voyage)
It was more than a Voyage; it was a musical journey of my life. Let me explain. Even as a child I loved Abba. My mum was a member of the fan club and I proudly sported the Abba necklace that only fan club members had. My memories of the 1970s are not as clear as they once were, but I clearly remember every detail of going to see Abba at Wembley in 1979. It was the first concert I ever attended and I was so excited. My mum has poor health so this remains one of the best things she ever took me to and I am very grateful for it.
We went round to see my grandparents who were going to drive us to Wembley. My mum and I both wore Abba T-shirts and I had a bright red full circle skirt that I felt fabulous in. I may have only been 12, but I was in no doubt about how big this was. We were going to see Abba! We had good seats we had bought via the fan club. We had some photos taken before we left but rules were very strict in those days about cameras and so my mum was persuaded by my grandparents not to take her camera. Sadly, I cannot find those photos now.
In my 12-year-old head, I remember thinking that they sound just like their records. I was surprised that there were so many band members on stage as I honestly had only expected Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Freida. It was all blue and white and lots of large triangles that looked like mountains. I was in awe. About a third into the show, I told mum I wanted to run to the front. Mum wasn’t keen as she was still unwell, but it was too late; she had to follow me as I got up and ran as fast as I could. I was right by the barrier in front of Benny. I called his name three times and finally he looked down, smiled and waved at me. After the concert, a decoy of Abba lookalikes, who we pushed forward to see, were getting into a luxury car (not unlike ‘Abba’ one of their album covers) while the real Abba got away from the crowds.
I have been dining out on this story for decades. I am so proud to have seen them at their last UK tour and have actually never met anyone else who has seen them perform live (other than my mum, of course).
So, when they first announced Voyage – I got caught up in the hype. I cannot tell you how many copies of the Voyage album I own, but its in double figures. I bought every coloured vinyl, every different CD and also bought my mum a copy to thank her for taking me all those years ago.
When the show opened, for the wider world it was considered post covid - but not for me. Since March 2020 I have suffered terrible anxiety about travelling, public transport, crowds and even sitting anywhere but end of a row. So, I knew seeing the show would be a huge challenge and I had all but given up on this. However, I have some wonderful friends, and Steven said he would drive down and try to organise an end of row seat for me. We booked months in advance but on Sunday 12 March 2023 the day had finally arrived. (I wanted to say arrival there but it didn’t quite work).
All the journey down we listened to Abba songs, singing and talking about our favourites. It makes all the difference to go with a friend who loves Abba as much as I do. We got there early and grabbed something to eat before taking our seats. I was so glad we were not on the dance floor – it was ridiculously crowded. They even carried out one woman who had fainted. I wondered how often that happens.
A hush fell over the crowd in anticipation of what they were about to see. Abba opened with The Visitors which is such a quietly eerie song that works in harmony with the Abbatars.
The Abbatars are truly something. I put on my glasses and still couldn’t work out how it was done. They are more than a hologram. They are not a projection in any way I had ever seen before. They certainly felt like visitors from out of this world. They looked so real. And the outfits were just phenomenal. I wanted Freida’s red cape and further on in the show I would also covert Agnetha’s white dress with the gold belt. They looked As Good As New, (ha ha couldn’t resist), looking just how I remember them but of course the technology has used the 1979 concert to give them a face lift.
They played a few of my top favourites including Hole In Your Soul, Summer Night City and Voulez Vous which I was delighted to hear. I loved the reinterpretation of Knowing Me Knowing You video on such a huge screen and I loved seeing the footage from Brighton in 1974 when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. I really enjoyed the hearing from all four members of Abba indivually. When Benny started to talk about Wembley, I couldn’t help myself. I shouted out ‘I was there’ to an Abbatar. That’s the magic of the show. We are clapping after each song as if they are there. It’s truly magical and for me very emotional. It felt like a full circle of my musical life coming together. I looked back on the years that have flown by and thought about my 12-year-old self. How happy I had been to see Abba. How simple life seemed back then.
Getting back to the show there are clearly some big hitters missing from the set list. No Super Trouper, Take A Chance On Me, Money Money Money, I Have A Dream and No Ring Ring. I think they have purposely held back so they can change up the set list – maybe after its first anniversary? There is no doubt that Abba fans will choose to see this time and again. And although I love Abba for choosing the UK for its launch, I’ve no doubt it could be replicated anywhere and I am sure there is huge demand for the show in Australia, Las Vegas and probably Sweden too.
Everyone will have their own set list of favourites, but if Benny and Bjorn are listening, I’d like to hear Just A Notion as it’s my favourite from the latest album. I’d also like to see Voulez Vous done by the Abbatars rather than the cartoon that we have for two songs (it works well for Eagle but not for Voulez Vous). I’d also like to hear Does Your Mother Know by the Abbatars. The band are fabulous and the backing singers have very soulful voices so I say this with the utmost respect no one and I mean no one sings Abba like Abba. This isn’t Mamma Mia – we want Abba. We want Abba! Would I go again? – in a heartbeat.
Please can the people who are in charge consider a big cardboard cut-out of Abba to have your photo taken next to? Surely that would help elevate it on social media. But I don’t need to tell Abba about marketing. Their release of Voyage was a masterclass in just that.
If I am so lucky that any member of Abba should read this – I want you to know I was always proud to be a fan and will love your songs to my dying breath. Thank you for the music.